Rural Missouri - July 2011 - (Page 8)
Sunken treasure found beneath a cornfield
Artwork (above) and photo (below) used with permission of Dave Hawley, Arabia Steamboat Museum.
of Engineers over a boat, making it During that long lunch, one thing impractical to dig,” David says. was decided for sure — if David could One by one, they ticked names off, find a boat, his family, as well as Jerry, See more of Steamboat finally arriving at the last steamer on wanted to help dig it up. hey’d been digging in the Kansas farmland Arabia’s museum the list: the Arabia (or the Great White “I went to the library and checked for nearly 20 days, fighting to constantly treasures, go to Arabia as it’s also known.) out books about steamboats that day,” pump out the groundwater that kept seepwww.ruralmissouri.coop. It was July 1987 when David locatDavid recalls, “but there’s no book to ing into the excavation site. It was Nov. 30, ed the Arabia. But the sunken steamtell you how to find or dig up a steam1988, and the day was like any other day at the dig. boat wasn’t in Missouri. boat. We had to figure it out ourselves.” They hoped to find something — anything — to “When it sank in 1856, it went down deep. About His research confirmed nearly 300 steamboats had show their wives and friends they weren’t nuts dig20 years later, the river changed its course and been lost to the treacherous Missouri River in the ging for sunken treasure. moved east. So the boat was in a farmer’s field a half1800s. From hidden sand bars, tree snags and changSuddenly, the dozer blades scraped across somemile on the Kansas side of the Missouri River,” says ing river depth, the waterway was extremely hazardthing with a dull thud. They’d only dug 30 feet the steamboat hunter. ous for vessels. David devised a list of 10 boats he felt below the surface. Could it be? Had they found it? With a bulldozer, track hoe, truck loader and a held great potential for buried cargo. David Hawley, along with his father, Bob, younger used 100-ton crane, the group began excavating. With an industrial magnetometer to pinpoint brother, Greg, and friends and partners, Jerry Mackey “The farmer told us several others had tried to exact locations of ferrous (iron) metals, the group and David Luttrell, immediately gathered around the raise the Arabia without much luck,” says David. “He gained permission from landowners and began gaping hole. Within minutes, the upper portion of said if we wanted to waste our money, go ahead.” searching for sunken steamers. Often, the treasure the paddle wheel support emerged from what had After the first paddle wheel emerged on Nov. 30, seekers were disappointed with their findings. once been the Missouri River’s channel in the 1800s. 1988, the team greeted every day with the anticipa“We’d dig somewhere and find a bunch of timbers The find confirmed the location of the Arabia, a tion of Christmas morning. In early December, the wrapped in steel cables or a sardine can, or we’d find steamboat that succumbed to the muddy Missouri first cargo item the steamer gave up was a black, rubthat a levee had been placed by the U.S. Army Corps and sank in 1856. Today, much of the Arabia and its ber shoe, found on the pine deck of the boat. cargo are on display at the Arabia Steamboat According to David, the shoe, made by the Museum in Kansas City, thanks to the HawGoodyear Rubber Company, is supposedly ley family and their partners. the oldest specimen of archaeological rubber “What we were doing was very exciting,” known to exist. says David, who spurred this sunken treasure Until the excavation was finished in the hunt. “And to know we’d found something middle of February, 1989, everything from like this boat, which had been underground Indian beads to hides, wool coats to leather for 132 years, is amazing.” boots and pickles to pie fruit was found in David’s journey to the bottom of that hole the boat’s muddy grave. The fact that the in a Kansas cornfield began on a hot summer boat had been buried deep underground, day more than a year before. away from sun and air, had actually preWhile on his job as a heating and cooling served the items. technician, David met a man who was inter“In addition to our regular jobs, we ested in a myriad of mysteries, such as flying worked 12- to 15-hour days,” says David, saucers, Big Foot and sunken steamboats. adding they only took a half-day off for After spending hours visiting with the man, Thanksgiving and Christmas. David wasn’t so sure about Big Foot, but he Their efforts were well rewarded. By the knew he was interested in sunken steamboats time the excavation was complete, the team and the treasures they might hold. had found 200 tons of artifacts — items that He immediately called his family to meet never reached the pioneers who dearly needhim for lunch. He told them, as well as the Top: An artist’s interpretation of the sinking of the Great White Arabia ed them. restaurant owner and family friend, Jerry, steamboat as it hits a snag. Above: It took nearly four months, working in all “The Arabia left St. Louis in August of about the steamboats and the many treasures kinds of weather, to raise the remains of the Arabia from the farm field in Kansas he felt must be beneath farm fields. where it rested, preserved below a total of 45 feet of silt and dirt, for 132 years. 1856, heading to the frontier. And in August,
by Heather Berry firstname.lastname@example.org
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - July 2011
Rural Missouri - July 2011
Table of Contents
Raising the Great White Arabia
Now showing: rural broadband
Out of the Way Eats
The changing tide
Hearth and Home
Sting of relief
Rural Missouri - July 2011
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